Dé Céadaoin 30 Samhain 2011

Latha Naomh Anndra sona!

Beannachdan na fèille gam chàirdean an Alba air an latha sònraichte seo!

This is a day of national pride for the Scots, or it should be. It surprises me that St. Andrew's day is not given the proper, official treatment it deserves -- or am I? As a cog in the machine that is the 'United Kingdom' still, how can Scotland claim a day completely for itself, its citizens and its diaspora? A day of national pride is a dangerous thing in a union. However, I would say that on this particular St. Andrew's day, more Scots are thinking of independence, with the notion currently taking such a central position in Scottish political discourse. 

I just thought I'd share my thoughts on this auspicious day. As a person of culture, a student devoted to the Gàidhlig language, literature, culture and heritage, and with a growing curiosity in Lallans too, I'm going to stress how important cultural movements are in the freeing of a nation/people. My background in Gaeilge, Yeats and the Irish literary and cultural renaissance reinforces my conviction that Scotland can have her freedom by entering the Uamh an Oir of her culture and facing the monsters of post-colonial hang-ups. For there to be true independence, the national mind and spirit of the people must be set as free as possible from the shackles of colonialism. Of course, this is a very idealistic proposition. Freedom hasn't really happened fully in Ireland yet; we're still enslaved because we haven't dealt with our collective/native unconscious mind; we still repress the Gaelic side to our nature. Gaeilge is one of those creatures disfigured by colonialism that disgusts most people -- they would rather fight her back into the cave and curse her to eternal darkness. The thing is, neglected parts of the self rise up and revolt in nasty ways and come in many guises, sectarianism being one.

I truly believe that a renaissance and promotion of Scottish culture and heritage is needed, and I'm not alone in my conviction. Hugh MacDiarmid for one clung to this belief passionately. The language movement is already beginning; from what I can see, the Scots are doing really well in their efforts for the new promotion and preservation of their languages, culture and heritage -- Tobar an Dualchais is something that comes strongly to mind here. This centenary year of Somhairle MacGill-Eain's birth has proven to be a point of acceleration towards this ideal; wouldn't it be fitting to carry the burning torch of this year's success into the next, lighting the way for future possibilities?

Dé hAoine 18 Samhain 2011

diaspora* :: blow on the dandelion!

I subscribed to diaspora* just under a year ago, and was left waiting for an invitation from them to create a profile. They sent out the odd email, expressing their gratitude for my interest in the non-commercial, open source social network, and informing me that they hoped to get an invitation out to me asap. In the end, they didn't send me the invite -- two of my friends who succeeded in acquiring the coveted invitation did. I think this sort of gradual rolling out of invites does more damage than good; surely if a social network is to be successful, it needs to be more widely accessible? In fairness, work on the software for the social networking site only began in May 2010, so this gradual influx of its cyber population can be understood. The site is still in 'alpha testing' form, but for the sake of their success, I would urge a swift promotion of the site.

The diaspora* project was founded by Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Dan Grippi, Max Salzberg and Raphael Sofaer, students at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Yep, uber-nerds! Apparently, the lads were inspired to start the project by a speech given by Columbia University law lecturer Eben Moglen, who described centralised social networks as "spying for free". I'm inclined to agree -- my dad has always been wary of Facebook, and it's only in recent years that Facebook has come to show its true colours. Information about its users is actually priceless. Now and again, gullible people share the news on their statuses that Facebook plans to charge us for using the service; why would it enforce a fee, when we're already paying dearly for the service? Max Salzberg is reported as saying "When you give up that data, you’re giving it up forever ... The value they give us is negligible in the scale of what they are doing, and what we are giving up is all of our privacy." How right he is. That is the reason why he and his fellow students came up with diaspora*; to give real freedom back to social networking users, and to protect those users' right to ownership and control of their personal information. The Diaspora Foundation stated back in September 2010, "...our distributed design means no big corporation will ever control Diaspora. Diaspora* will never sell your social life to advertisers, and you won’t have to conform to someone’s arbitrary rules or look over your shoulder before you speak." Sounds good to me!
Even the name of the site is more appealing: diaspora, a scattered or dispersed population. Much more intelligent than Facebook. FACEbook. That name is ominous, suggesting a group of spies and informers in a dark room somewhere rifling through files of people's profiles. Have you seen that Take this Lollipop thing yet? Scared the crap out of me. That freaky man stands for greedy corporations, you know. 

diaspora* interface


So far, I can say that the interface of the site is quite close to that of Google+, and slightly like Facebook. Personally, I've been urging my people to abandon Facebook in favour of Google+ or diaspora*, though now I shall be urging more towards diaspora*, as Google want your info too -- they're certainly no angels; they're set on cyber-world domination by the looks of it. Facebook has actually become less user-friendly in terms of navigation in recent times, after their stupid changes to the interface and gradual rollout of the "Timeline". That I don't 'like'. When my friend sent me an invitation for diaspora*, he chose my language as Irish. (Good man!) I noticed this from the random words that appeared in Irish on the diaspora* website. A lot of translation work needs to be done, but all in good time. :) As far as I know, diaspora* are ahead of Google+ in this respect. All I know is that I'd rather translate for free for an open source, non-profit site than for corporation-corrupt Facebook!

You know you're entering non-mainstream territory when you see "stop censorship" slapped on a webpage. Obviously diaspora* are against US proposal for an Censorship Act "against piracy"; what exactly constitutes piracy? Anything that speaks the truth? Any platform that allows true freedom of expression? Any site that undermines corporate power? Diaspora* would undoubtedly be one of their targets. There are some sinister goings on in reaction to diaspora*. Apparently, PayPal froze the Diaspora Foundation funding account in October of this year. The account was unfrozen after much pressure and well-founded threats of legal action, and an apology was given. But no explanation. Dodge City. Apparently Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg (F*ckerburg, more like!) donated money to the Diaspora Foundation, because "it is a cool idea". I'd mind him, lads! 

On joining diaspora* this evening, I find that co-founder Ilya Zhitormirskiy died on the 12th of November at the age of 22. Unreal. No cause of death has been given at this sensitive time, but don't you know, lack of clarification leads to gossip, and quite a few sources are claiming it was suicide. This would be tragic, for someone so young, so intelligent and so bright, with an innovative vision for cyber society. From his track record, he looks like someone full of the urge to live and to change the world. 

Despite governments' opinion [glares angrily in the direction of Dáil Éireann in her mind], students are the future, and they create the future. This group of lads have proven this. So if I send you an invite, join diaspora* and become part of the growing movement for true liberation of the web, and true freedom. Alternatively, you can sign up here, and wait patiently to be called upon...

Dé Máirt 15 Samhain 2011

Recent reflection

I feel that politics and linguistics have really bullied my spirit for inspiration of late. I feel so strongly about political justice, and yet it doesn’t seem to prompt a creative response in me. I look at Somhairle MacGill-Eain, who wrote fantastic poems of great political conviction and passion, and I feel that my inability to write on the subject is a failing on my part. I would like to take up a ‘bardic’ position, so to speak, in order to give voice to the politically voiceless in this fraud of a democracy. I want to write blistering satires on the perpetrators of political, social and economic injustice. As far as language is concerned, I’m aware that my standard in the minority language that I choose to write creatively in does not satisfy everyone. I feel barbed wire squeezing around my tongue when I attempt an emotional or creative utterance in such a beaten language. I look to the likes of Somhairle for hope, when all I feel is my own failing and lack of inherited tradition in comparison. However, to remain silent is to die. Not only would I have my own death on my hands, but the deaths of ideas, feelings, and the deaths of the languages I choose to write in.