infest 2006

Want to get involved in Beltane Fire Festival?

A message on behalf of Nightwatch;

We are currently looking for Stewards and Torchbearers for the procession at Beltane…

Stewards are the guardians and storytellers of the procession in Beltane. We help to keep the spectators away from the performers so that the performance can run smoothly. As the only performers allowed to speak to the spectators, we also answer their questions about the performance and the festival. This year we’re hoping to not only learn about how to interact with the crowd, but also to learn about each of the separate groups and performances we will be protecting on the night.

The Torchbearers stand at the borders of the procession or performance space. Dark-clad and -painted, they appear almost as shadows besides the torches with which they illuminate the path around the Hill and the performance points. As well as lighting the procession (all the fire you’ll see on the Hill came initially from them), the torchbearers work with the Blue Men and stewards to hold the line between audience and performers.

Practices for both groups are on Sundays at 1:45pm in the car park on Calton Hill, with a social night at a pub usually on Thursdays. We are also hoping later in the run-up to have at least one practice with each of the other groups to get to meet other performers and learn about their performance. The social nights are not mandatory, but are a good way to get to know the group better.

If you are interested then please pop us an email at so that we know to expect you.

Crossposted from my blog.
infest 2006

Labour, Tories, Co-operatives and Mutualism

Hah, this is interesting. Not only has Labour come out in favour of mutualism, but the Tories have more recently announced their radicalism by supporting the idea of mutuals and co-ops in the public sector.

The cynic in me says that both parties are doing it to shed responsibility, but the reformist in me says that this kind of libertarian socialist-esq decentralisation is so desperately required. My problem with this though is that a) both parties have utterly horrible track records in so many areas towards fucking about with politicing the political system for their own gain, and b) that it’ll be a less than half-baked implementation from either of them which could fuck up major areas of UK society, wot like Thatcher did, again. Overall, the optimist in me thinks it sounds like a good start, and I guess it will depend on their specific plans which I’m sure will become clearer in the run up to the election…

Update: This really doesn’t make me feel secure about the mechanics assumed by the current ‘Big Society’ policy.

Crossposted from my blog.
infest 2006

Killing civilians in computer games

Around three weeks ago this story appeared on geek/gamer news sites;

Leaked Modern Warfare 2 Footage Shocks – Game play from the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which appears to cast players in the role of a terrorist, has caused a maelstrom on the Internet.”

I didn’t bother looking into it at the time because killing innocents in games isn’t new (think GTA, etc), but now it has been reported that the Russian government has ordered the game to be recalled from stores due to this, noting “The mission in question features a civilian slaughter carried out at the behest of a Russian terrorist named Makarov.”

So, some context; here is a video of the entire airport terrorist attack mission. If that has gone by the time you read this, YouTube search for “Modern Warfare terrorist”.

Ultimately I take the progressive view that self-aware people who play games know there is an obvious distinction between what goes on in the game world and what goes on in real life, the exact same thing with literature, theatre, cinema, etc. I don’t think that the interactive nature of the medium changes anything – arguing that it subconsciously changes people’s values is bunkum.

Saying that, society is so often described to be shit these days due to, in my opinion, a horrible feedback loop involving parents and the education system, in that there hasn’t been good progressive carrot replacement to making people think about the repercussions of their actions now that the conservative and authoritarian nature of discipline that was used in past times has been shown to be an illiberal way of doing things and thus phased out (as in, time has ironed out the hypocrisy of those who could arguably could been classed as generally ‘classical liberal’ in tone who were also social conservatives, in the same kind of way as the founding fathers of USA owning slaves, etc).

Bottom line: There are both ‘positive‘ and ‘negative‘ aspects of liberty, parents should parent their kids on this and other such topics, and social conservatives should eventually die and allow the education system to become more enlightened.

Crossposted from my blog.
infest 2006

On the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement treaty

“Here’s a 20-minute, must-see lecture on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — the secret copyright treaty currently being negotiated, which stands to fatally wound all user-generated content sites from mailing lists to YouTube; which stands to criminalize kids for noncommercial file-sharing; which stands to put your internet connection in jeopardy if anyone in your house is accused of infringement, and much, much more.” link

The video is nicely succinct on where it has come from, is at and might go, but Wikipedia has more background information on the whole thing.

Crossposted from my blog.
infest 2006

High on science

After a few ciders during a viewing of the hour long ‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009 on the curiosities of cosmology at a Richard Dawking Foundation event, I return to the the glorious creations of John Boswell (aka melodysheep on YouTube), who edited, vocoded and accompanied various video clips on the science of everything, primarily featuring Carl Sagan, into a couple of amazing music videos that fill me with awe and make me wonder so as to how anyone can believe in mysticism when science can, while explaining so so much, offer so many other opportunities in the realm of unknowns to be explored and explained.

In saying that, it’s not that schools of thought based in mysticism don’t have insights and perhaps truths to tell, whether it be from morality to psychology or sociology, but, if you’re going to argue towards a system being right or wrong, you have to understand that a) a system isn’t greater than the sum of it’s parts and b) other systems may have rationales better than others and thus your own ’system’ is the wrong kind of paradigm to think of ideas as, and thus be willing to factor in alternative arguments and potentially even “hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted” and start from afresh to get closer to a ‘truth’ of a matter before declaring you’re on the right path to a fundamental knowledge of something. If you don’t understand the arguments, go back and see what they are based on. Be radical. It’s not like that word doesn’t have it’s etymological root for nowt.

n.b. the paragraph above is half-baked and requiring of a sober milky to write a proper essay on it at some point, maybe.

p.s. some comments on the videos

Crossposted from my blog.
infest 2006

Some press regarding Samhuinn

A few brief notes.

Disclaimer: My views are not that of Beltane Fire Society, thank you!

Google News search gives;

Beltane good way to mark the coming of winter days

Sacrificing clarity for an awful pun with the headline there. Some unfortunately incorrect statements which handily come in order of ‘wut?’; “stilt-walkers dressed as crows and wolves, among other predatory animals”, “The Cailleach, who embodies the Winter aspect”, “The festival is believed to be based on pagan celebrations which predate the Celtic culture”

The comments on the article being evidence of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (protip; typing “fuckwad theory” into [Firefox's] address bar and hitting enter gets you straight there).

Revellers join Samhuinn fun

Brief and generally correct, apart from the “ghastly ghouls and demons” in the first paragraph which could have been averted if the author had searched their own news archives for “samhuinn”.

Celebrate ancient traditions with Samhuinn festival, while coming from a PR style perspective, is much better thought out.

Until, that is, one gets to “With the festival ending in a dazzling firework display at West Parliament Square, the Edinburgh sky will be lit up, offering spectacular sights for local and tourists – including those who choose to rent a castle in Scotland – alike.” In parsing that sentence, I started out thinking “oh cripes, they’ve heard there will be flares and have decided to apply artistic license and spin the facts to make it sound a better report, ‘cos, like, well, who’s gonna check?’”, then I got to “including those who choose to rent a castle in Scotland” and the WUT kicked in.

It continues “However, with much of the celebrations taking place outside, visitors may want to ensure they bring hats, scarves and other warm clothes into their Scottish holiday homes to keep the chill away.” and “Once the procession is over, visitors may find that opting to stay in a self catering castle gives them the chance to carry on the new year celebrations in style before taking in everything else this stunning city has to offer.”

Then it clicked – the phrases “rent a castle in Scotland”, “Scottish holiday homes”, “self catering castle” are links to This, if you’re not familiar with some of the antics folk get up to in the domain of PR, is astroturfing, and in this kind of instance, an attempt to, by writing a blog/forum/other post that seems to be grassroots but that is not, trick Google’s PageRank algorithm into thinking that the linked-to website has more people honestly referencing it online than there actually are. This one is a more sophisticated and “above board” than a fake blog in that it’s within the “Travel Partners” section of and does actually note “Scotts Castle Holidays” in the top left, though it’s still pretty sneaky and I wonder how much travelbite gets for such articles.

Also, it notes “Visitors will also find that hot chocolate and mulled wine stalls which line the streets should help them to stave off the cold”, which, while greatly grander than the reality of the situation, was correct in some regard – a thank you to the Edinburgh City Mission for providing free hot drinks to our punters as I’m sure some eedjits will have come out without forethought to the situation they’d be putting themselves in, i.e., outside for an hour and a half at this time of year. That comes from the top of my secular humanist heart rather than the bottom for your trying to convert folk, but hey, the world isn’t black and white. Your PR was “better” than previous Samhuinn Fire Festivals, although less amusing.

Crossposted from my blog.