Sunday, May 16, 2010

new and exciting discoveries

I love finding new bands. I think 'discovering' an artist whose music you connect to and enjoy is a bit of a giant cosmic hug of niceness.

here's some huggly goodness that has come my way in the last 18 or so months (cos if i'm still listening to and loving a 'new' artist I've heard in 18th months it's pretty sure they're around to stay)

Alela Diane

Andrew Bird

The Unthanks

Micah P Hinson

Fever Ray

Mumford and Sons

Kings of Convenience


Daniel Knox

and recently, some oxford goodness, Stornaway.

aaaah. music.

We just recently got to go the 'wood' festival, a little baby eco-fest, and it was fantastic. and soon, we're going to go to Truck, the bigger more indy rock version of wood.

Here's some pics of wood, including the unthanks, and trevor moss & hannah lou.


This week my work helped host the annual conference of the organisation of News Ombudsmen.

To be honest, I'd not heard of a news ombudsmen before this. They are one level of news monitoring, a representative, sometimes called the 'reader's editor,' who people can complain to. Part of the ethos behind their role is to uphold ethical practices of journalism.

While the weeks leading up the the conference have been busy for me, I was able to sit in on some of the sessions during the days of the conference, and they were fascinating.

It seems that journalism as we have known it is in a rapid state of flux. The old is crumbling, and everyone is still figuring out what the 'new' looks like. 'The digital age' as it has been called throws up new challenges for the press watchdogs.

The speakers at this conference were all addressing the changes that have arisen with declining copy sales for news, wider news readership than ever, and the event of '24 hour' online news, citizen journalism, blogging, and social media, and what this means for Ombudsmen. The thing that struck me was the way in which postmodernism is linked to technological advances.

According to the source of collective truth, Wikipedia:

Postmodernism is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the rejection of objective truth and global cultural narrative. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Postmodernism has influenced many cultural fields, including literary criticism, linguistics, architecture, visual arts, and music"

it goes on to say: "Whereas Modernism is often associated with identity, unity, authority, and certainty, Postmodernism is often associated with difference, plurality, alterity, and skepticism"

Without going too much into philosophical nitty gritty, the changes in journalism dovetail pretty neatly with this philosophical trend. It doesn't seem like a deliberate ideological change, rather one that is grounded in both changing social norms and new technologies.

Previously, the voice of 'factual authority' has been held in news readers, news channels, newspapers,the few broadcasting to the many. The rise of affordable technology, tiny cameras in cellphones has meant that now often 'citizen journalists' provide the evidence, the facts or the reporting of incidents. News posted online is often more interactive, with readers able to leave comments and discuss issues.

Chris Elliot of the guardian newspaper gave a number of excellent points about

'mutualised media'

1. Mutualized media encourages participation. It invites and/or allows a response.

2. It is not an inert "us" to "them" form of publishing.

3. It encourages others to initiate debate, publish material or make suggestions we can follow, as well as lead. We can involve others in the pre-publication process.

4. It helps form committees of joint interest around subjects, issues or individuals.

5. It is open to the web and is part of it. It links to and collaborates with other material including services on the web.

6. It aggregates and curates the work of others.

7. It recognizes that journalists are not the only voices of authority, expertise and interest.

8. It aspires to achieve and reflect diversity and shared values.

9. It recognizes that publishing can be the beginning of the journalistic process rather than the end.

10. It is transparent and open to challenge - including correction, clarification and addition.

How very postmodern I say!

Is it possible that while on one hand, news is suffering from 'celebritization' 'soundbitation' and a general devolution towards 'infotainment', the print papers now have the opportunity to do greater in-depth analysis and in-depth reporting, while the internet provides the forum for the 24 flow of facts and news. Or is it the reverse? The online news-sites provide the analysis while the paper copies of newspapers become mindless fodder for the daily commuter?

I discovered in a conversation about newspaper readers and their ownership and interaction with 'their' paper of choice, according to one of the conference delegates, I am the ideal Sunday paper reader. I only buy one paper a week, it's a the Sunday Times, and it lasts me all week, more or less. I love the supplements. To my slight chagrin, they are where I source most of my information about contemporary music/culture and the goings on of the world. There isn't a much nicer way to spend a Sunday afternoon, inside or out, with the paper, some nibbles and a drink (tea or beer, or wine, if I'm feeling particularly extravagant). We do get the Guardian at work, which is great, but i don't really enjoy 'the news'. I follow things more because I think I ought to than because I really want to. Partly it's deliberate, news can get me really down and angry. Most of my news from NZ comes from Frogblog, the green party blog.

Interesting stuff. My dilemma is between being informed and being in a state of information overload. I probably read the things that back up what I already think more than I'd ideally like. I'm quite excited about the way 'news' is going. it feels more uncontrollable than ever before, by governments, by corporations and by spin doctors. It seems more likely, that in these technological times 'truth will out'. and when it does, that it will be more diverse, open to correction and more of a conversation than a statement.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

moisturiser magic

There's no decent health food shops here in Oxford. Holland and Barrett (colloquially known as horrible and barret) don't count. there's one small one but it's little and pretty pricey. My old workplace, Natural Choice, in Cork, afforded me the bliss of having everything I could possibly want or dream of at hand, or at least accessible in a catalogue.

So the problem with this situation is getting hold of natural skincare products. Most skincare products contain all sorts of nasties. According to "The Chemical Maze" ( a great gift from Malcolm's sister Jean) paraben, appearing in skincare products as ethyl, butyl, methyl, or propyl paraben, can cause dermatitis, endocrine disruption, possible increased risk of breast cancer, and is toxic for animals. Do I want to slather this on my skin? Um, no. Added to this, many skincare products - such as vaseline (petroleum jelly) paraffin and so on are fossil fuel derived. maybe a good idea to switch, as it's non renewable resource.

I am always annoyed at the amount of beauty products marketed to women, and increasingly men too. I try to be as simple as possible in my 'beauty regime' because you can spend a fortune and most of it isn't necessary or even good for you. We use olive oil soap, which is pure saponified olive oil, and doesn't dry out your skin. I know that shower gels smell nice, but they generate more plastic containers, and often contain sodium lauryl sulphate, another nasty - linked to ulcers, excema, mucous membrane irritation, and is toxic to aquatic organisms. bicarb soda is a brilliantly effective underarm deodorant, but if you are living with people, you may want to label it clearly to avoid icky mix ups...

For facial moisturiser and cleanser, I use Weleda's iris day cream, which is gorgeous and not expensive at all compared with other natural face products. Weleda are highly ethical, and their products are organic and wonderful. For cleanser, I use their almond milk cleanser. I don't use a toner, but if I were to, witch hazel is good, or rose water. For perfume, the Weleda rose deodorant smells divine, and the sage one smells lovely and fresh and could be used for either gender I think (and doesn't really work so well as a deodorant so I just use it for the smell).

my friends at millstream gardens are my total heros, and they make one of the most gorgeous body lotions I have encountered... but it's a little far to return and collect it. Their little jars of solid oil perfume are also wonderful. Malcolm has the man blend, and it is scrumptious.

So what to do for a body moisturiser that is natural and doesn't cost huge amounts?

The only solution, having found a good cheap source of coconut, almond and other oils from the indian supermarket on cowley road... is to make some!


25g grated beeswax
1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond oil
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tsp filtered water
2 tsp glycerin
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops rose essential oil (in coconut base)
5 drops frankincense essential oil

Gently melt beeswax and water. Add other oils on low heat, stirring till all is dissolved. put into glass jars/ other containers and let cool.

It's best put on straight after a shower, and is quite rich, as I have dry skin. It takes a couple of minutes to soak in, but you only need to use it every other day.

I would like to try some variations, if I can find a source of cocoa butter, and also I would like to make one with maybe double the beeswax amount as a heavy duty gardening hand cream.

Estimated cost? I think this batch cost less then 4 pounds in total, will last for about 2 months, and took about 15 minutes. Awesome.

dandelion coffee

We've been preparing the slightly neglected allotment we've inherited for planting, and were digging up lots of big fat dandelions from it. So I seized the opportunity to try making some dandelion coffee. the process is as follows... wash the roots, shop them in a food processor till they are like chunky crumbs. then roast in the oven. then grind (not strictly necessary) then brew in a cafetiere.

I used the recipe listed here

thanks to folks who are good enough to post their recipes up on blogs and websites.

It was lots of work, but the result... yummy, yummy hot beverage. it does not taste like coffee, it's more similar to coffee than anything else, but it has a sweet, root vegetable aftertaste, like parsnips. at least that's what I think.

The tragic ending to this tale is that I knocked over the jar full on the floor and it smashed... no more dandelion coffee for now anyway. But I recommend it for anyone who has a surplus of dandelions and some time on their hands...

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