“This is the Big Society. You see it must be big, to contain so many volunteers.”

Precious Moments figurine of a boy in uniform ...
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Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.”

Philip Pullman

I remember the first day I was old enough to be brought to the public library. I was luckier than most of the other kids in my neighbourhood in that I had parents that encouraged reading, but it wasn’t until I entered that dusty bastion of oak-wood and furniture polish that I really discovered just how wonderful books were.

It was in the local library where I discovered Enid BlytonAsterix, the Moomins, Huckleberry Finn, and the Hobbit to the sound of a ticking grandfather clock and whispers of fellow readers.  That hardened paper ticket was the gateway to a lifetime of learning, of enjoyment, and countless worlds.

During Ireland’s last recession in the 80s the building, which had been a public library since 1884, needed some work to be made safe and so was condemned as libraries in poor areas were considered luxuries.  So we moved further afield and I found the many worlds of Clarke and Asimov, the joys of Adams, and had my noodle cooked by Ellison and Bradbury.

It was in a library that I met Roald Dahl. It was a library that started me programming. Libraries got me through school and into technical college and if it wasn’t for the groundwork laid there I’d never have made it through the Open University.

As Pullman points out, the fallacy of the market economy is going to drive out anything of worth in our society and it’ll be the less well off that will suffer.  It is nothing more than greed and selfishness couched in the language of ideology and stewardship.  A reduction to the lowest common denominator for those who can’t afford it, while the selfish classes get to keep more opportunities for themselves.

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Two Nations Divided by a Common Language

Dara Ó Briain recently posted this video on Twitter to show just how different the Irish and British are in spite of a couple of centuries of speaking the same language.

In the early days of living together, I asked Ang to put the messages in the press.  While simultaneously trying to figure out when I’d installed a device for receiving emails into an iron and dialling NHS Direct to get an ambulance sent out she didn’t realise that her first forays into Hiberno-English were occurring.  Nowadays things are regularly grand in our house – to be sure things are rarely things any more, but yokes – and the expletive of choice is feck.

In return I’ve started saying “Ta ra!” and Tidy, which sound quite daft in a Dublin accent.

At least I didn’t mention the Immersion.

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Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, Acrobat… and Dick

Dungeons & Dragons
Image by DraXus via Flickr

Have you noticed everyone on Facebook changing their profile pictures into cartoon characters from their childhood. You may have done this yourself. You may have been guilted into doing so by random appeals on behalf of the NSPCC or other child protection agencies. You might even have changed your profile picture into a character from Dungeons and Dragons, maybe Dungeon Master himself.

Remember Dungeons and Dragons? Kind, friendly Dungeon Master leads our youthful protagonists through a series of trials and adventures always ending in IMPORTANT LESSONS on FRIENDSHIP and SHARING. What a nice chap.

Wrong.

Dungeon Master was an asshat. He abducted six kids and an endangered animal, tortured them for fourteen hours, and left them to die in unresolved peril. Want to raise awareness about child abuse? There’s your child abuse right there.

Dungeon Master – the Joseph Fritzl of cartoon land.

Update: We have received an injunction from the Unicorn Anti-defamation League and therefore are obliged to say that Uni was hella cute, if a little bit whiny. We offer our apologies and no offence towards any magical creature was intended.

Except to Dungeon Master. He’s a dick.

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You have 500 Million Friends

the social network
Image by whipsmart via Flickr

Everyone’s on Facebook, right?  Poking, messaging, friend requests, liking, and other every day words take on their own meanings on this website.  A website that has a population equal to the whole EU, has overtaken email, texting, and the telephone as a means of communication and still manages to grow despite a small (but extremely vocal) community of detractors that think it needs to be shut down.

Sorkin and Fincher’s movie, based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, doesn’t touch on the minutiae of the privacy activists concerns, but rather delivers a tight precis of the Facebook’s birth pangs and subsequent legal fallout.

More sympathetic to Zuckerberg than I would have imagined, the movie seems to be the beginning of a narative that portrays the Facebook co-founder as a misunderstood genius (possibly with Asperger’s) that just wants to be loved. Sorkin is at his best when allowed to write fast paced dialogue and interweaving the various legal issues with the Facebook story stopped the movie from grinding to a halt or becoming a spiritual sequel to A Few Good Men.

Love it or hate it Facebook is here and most people will continue to use the site until they finally get bored with talking to each other.  Open source initiatives like Diaspora may gain some currency with a certain type of user, but they won’t ever be as cool, and as Zukerberg’s character says in the movie, Facebook is nothing if it’s not cool.

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August Reading

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

According to Banned in the USA by Herbert N. Foerstel this is the fourth most banned book in US schools because of its use of the “n word.” It’s a shame, because Twain’s portrait of the pre-Civil War South is a damning satire of the post manumission world in which racism was simply driven underground rather than addressed.

Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter.

What started off as a pretty dull, sub-Crichton, Space Cowboy type story turned into something much more compelling half way through. You need to persist past the near future 2010 and clunky technobabble but then pay-off is worth it; the same mind-bending stuff that Bear and Simmons regularly trade in.

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur.

I got this free with Stanza in what I can only imagine is an attempt by the publisher to try and get people to buy the rest of the series – I still feel short changed. I don’t think I’ve come across a published book that reads as much like a bad teenage fantasy as this… and I’ve tried to read the Twilight ‘books’. If you want a bunch of bad deus ex machinae, wooden characters that all have the same voice, and some really bad semi-furry sex then read away. Everyone else, life’s too short

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Giving the Schafernaker

Ben and Tom had the idea of getting the phrase giving the Schafernaker into common usage, just like the Santorum (NSFW) and lifting your luggage (NSFHypocrites).

Next time you’re cut up on the motorway, pushed about on the Tube, or just plain fed up with the world consider giving the Schafernaker.

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Gangsta for life

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