Thursday, September 30, 2004

helping daftness overtake the bnp

Harry Hutton's writing is bright and funny. I'd instantly warm to anyone whose blog had entries titled My iPod is a glorified herd of cows, Open letter to Meatloaf and How to say "Death to America!" in Arabic (Click back next week and I’ll tell you the Arabic for "Moderate progress within the bounds of the law."), and a vote-online poll asking You are trapped on a desert island with the Spice Girls. Food and rum have run out. Which Spice Girl do you eat first?

(Incidentally, Baby Spice is winning at the time of writing - jesus people, obviously you go for Geri or Mel C first, much more available nutriment per cadaver surely?)

But worthy as all that is, none of it is what's prompted me to be telling you about him.

Thing is, because of a blog entry he did about the BNP, he found that if you stuck "British National Party" into Google then his blog came up 23rd. So he started a concerted campaign to become number one, above the actual proper site of the racist scumpigs themselves.

Google, like all search engines, keep their methods very secret; their formula for calculating the relevance of a site is everything to them, it's the equivalent of Coca Cola jealously guarding their recipe and not having more than twelve living people knowing it (though I'd guess each 330ml can contains half a can of sugar, 75ml of battery acid, topped up to the brim with random industrial effluent. I may be a little out on the exact proportions).

What's certain is Google constantly sweeps the net and basically regards a link to a site as a vote for that site. So the more links, the higher up the list you get.

The campaign's working, Harry's blog's already up to 4th place for British National Party. Here's another little nudge: British National Party

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

ethical oil consumption

Olive oil is the backbone of the Palestinian agricultural economy.

Since the start of the 2000 Intifada farmers have risked their lives in order to pick their olives, and Israeli military incursions into the occupied territories have included the deliberate destruction of half a million olive trees in order to starve Palestinians of their livelihood and clear land for more illegal settlements.

Israeli curfews mean harvesting is hampered, and rerouting of water for the illegal settlements takes away vital irrigation. The new Israeli wall is separating people from the land they farm.

A serious proportion of what does get produced goes bad before it's sold, as good storage facilites and cheap transport are scarce.

But now there's a direct link set up for people in the UK to buy this high quality, first cold-pressing extra virgin olive oil.

A company called Zaytoun has been established to let us give practical solidarity to Palestinian people and allow them to live, as they have for thousands of years, by trading in olive oil grown on their land.

It's organically grown (although it isn't labelled as organic - it takes several years for land to be organically used before the produce can be called organic. Many of the Zaytoun olive groves are still in this transition period, and those that are organic have yet to have official certification).

Not only is it by far the most ethical choice, but it's a lot healthier too. The phrase 'extra-virgin' is rapidly becoming meaningless. The test for whether an oil is extra-virgin, virgin, corrente or lampante is simply a test of acidity. As chemical means now exist to alter the acidity, low-grade industrially produced oil, heated and reheated and substantially less healthy, can be sold as extra-virgin.

Italy still corners the market, but nowadays it's reputation without substance. They have the two most popular brands, Filippo Berio and Bertolli, neither of which are what they appear to be. Despite the large letters on the label saying 'imported from Italy', they actually mean 'oil from Tunisia, Greece, Spain and elsewhere transported in tankers to our Italian factory for industrial processing and bottling'. Italy doesn't actually even grow enough olives to supply domestic demand and is one of the world's biggest importers of olive oil (in no small part due to the relabelling-export scam).

So, 'first cold-pressing extra virgin' is the phrase to look for; it means the oil has had the minimum of processing and retains the maximum nutritional value. Zaytoun is one such oil. It's also the only fair-trade olive oil available in the UK, and the first fair-trade product marketed out of Israel.

It's £5 for a 500ml bottle (cheaper for very large orders), the same price as other organic olive oil costs.

The catch is that there's a minimum order of 24 bottles. But then again, it's oil, it's hardly going to go off in a hurry. And if you and five mates club together, that's only four bottles each; or else ask your health food store to stock it.

The plan has been a bigger success than expected, and has recently caught the eye of the media in the UK and the Middle East.

If you're outside the UK, plans are afoot to stock it in Spain, Belgium, Japan and the USA.

Whilst some international activists are risking their lives to help with this year's olive harvest, you can give direct and practical simply by your choice of salad dressing.

Order details are on the Zaytoun site.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

animal rights and wrongs

If you hold a demonstration outside someone's house against animal cruelty the government bring in some new repressive laws to deal with you.

If you hold one in favour of animal cruelty, they 'believe in the right to protest' or even invite you in for tea.

why do a blog?

Although its ubiquity may make us think otherwise, the internet is still a very new medium and the consensus etiquette is still evolving.

As it becomes more prevalent, emails become more personal. Five years ago it was common for people to visibly stick all the addresses at the top of a mass mailing, and for the recipients to copy the whole list and add it to their address book for the sending of forwarded virtual humour.

('Virtual reality' is a contrivance that's almost like reality. 'Virtual humour' is a joke that's almost, like, funny).

But the evaporation of email's novelty and the advent of spam meant people wanted email only from people they know. Now, as we handle more and more personal email, and as doing your own site becomes easier, so the forwarded-funny is on the wane and the blog is on the rise.

Despite the belief of those of us who have a computer as a combination of fifth limb and second brain, the blog is still a minority interest and the entire form is still unknown to many. To those of you unfamiliar with the format, it's a clear evolution from the zine culture of the 80s and 90s. Just like a zine, it's a personal scrapbook of things, some written by the editor, some pinched and/or pointing to good stuff done by others. All of it is done small-scale for the love of it, by those conscious of having something to say.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that most of my friends who do blogs - Jim, Gyrus, Jon, Justin - are all people who did a shitload of zinery in decades past.

Like zines, blogs are as diverse as the people that make them, but with the one unifying constant - they all plug others they like. If you spend much time online, checkout others, make a blogs folder in your Favorites. And put Green Fairy in it. By far my fave, you shouldn't ever be wasting your time here if you're not up to date there.

Friday, September 24, 2004

why 'Bristling Badger'?

Like surprisingly few of life's great ideas, the name was a flash of inspiration in a Breton shower.

I like it cos it's a name that's hard to define in any narrow way. When you see Conservative Punk you know what you're gonna get (even if you wish you didn't). And that's fair enough if that's what you want your blog to be. In these times of advertising overload and its attendant deceptive language, more than ever there's a need for frankness, directness, making it say on your tin what you do.

However, what I'm putting on my blog won't readily fit any neat little title. Some of it'll be political rants and commentary - expect recurrent themes to be music, highlighting nonsense and/or suggesting humane and sustainable alternatives - some of it'll be comedy internet daftness, some of it inconsequential meanderings that I just want to write down. A personal blog's here to be a journal, so it should be varied, it should be trivial and profound, funny and solemn, reflections from the different facets of the blogger.

Bristling Badger works as a name cos it's ambiguous enough to include all that variety, yet the name's not totally vacant. It sounds a bit daft - as in 'mad as a badger'- and badgers have a great sturdy stoic frame and really cool stripes. I have neither, but I like these qualities if interpreted as personality traits. In anthropomorphic stories the badger always has authoritative wise ideas and explains them well, whether it be Wind In The Willows or PC Badger admonishing Tufty the 1970s road safety squirrel.

Bristling can be either a slightly riled point-making thing, or the sunnier 'bristling with ideas' meaning. Whichever, there's a full of ideas vibe.

And of course, I just like the sound of it.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

get your motor running, head out on the highway

I'm in a peculiar state, a heady mix of nervousness at writing a first entry in an entirely new medium for me, coupled with a feeling that I've left it long enough already. Having sod all sleep last night before cycling across central London at 8am hasn't helped any, either.

When I mentioned starting a blog to Jim from Where There Were No Doors he said my blog was 'way overdue'. Jim's not often in the habit of being wrong.

So, here's my blog then. I just thought I'd set it up and post something, anything, to get that awkward beginning over.

Let's hope Jim was right about this blog thing, rather than it being more like his finely detailed array of apocalyptic Millennium Bug predictions.

This is the way the blog begins, not with a bang but a whimper...