Sunday, May 27, 2007

Protective garments...?

I never realised there were so many garments 'out there' on the internet, all designed to protect our vulnerable human thoughts and minds...

One inventor, Michael Menkin, has been designing Thought Screen Helmets (see left) since 1998 to shield our minds from alien microwave signals. He has sent out over 90 worldwide to date, taking about 4 hours to make each helmet and making absolutely no money from it, as it's a public service. There are testimonies from happy helmet wearers on the site, to combat any waves of cynicism you might be having. These garments (including the baseball cap version) have 'successfully stopped four kinds of alien abduction', including...

1. The praying mantis-like aliens.
2. Servants of the mantis-like aliens, popularly referred to as grays.
3. Snake-skinned aliens, popularly referred to as reptilians.
4. Meek-Moks, named after the sound these aliens make while speaking.

If a Thought Screen Helmet isn't quite to your taste, or doesn't meet your needs for preventing alien abduction, there are a variety of 'fashionable' garments made from aluminium foil on another site, Aluminium Foil Deflector Beanie: Your Effective Low-Cost Solution to Combating Mind Control, which includes tin foil hats for 'camouflage' and 'cosmic ray deflection'...

To think I'd been naively sharing the products of my mind with humans, my computer and the occasional blog post all this time, with not a single thought for unknown psychos trying to control my mind remotely, or aliens zapping my head with microwaves.... wi-fi network emissions maybe, but not aliens.

(via my anonymous work colleagues' group blog)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gun-wielding dummy and thieving elf

Sometimes characters from games get a bit too mixed up with reality...

As when two armed officers burst into a suburban house to confront a gun-wielding suspect, only to discover it was a life-size dummy of Lara Croft lurking in the shadows. Lara (on the left) remains 'impounded as evidence'.

Or the sentencing of a man who claimed he stole lingerie from a shop at knife-point because he was under the illusion he was still 'Buho', his female elf character from a role-playing game. His disguise - wig, hat and glasses - doesn't sound very elfin, but it's an interesting excuse for stealing a load of ladies' underwear.

Thanks for the link, Paul!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Local Crows

A pair of crows 'moved' into my area a few weeks ago, taking up a permanent position at the top of a tree near my window. I've grown quite fond of them, despite their not-very-attractive noise.... they've been waking me up at the break of dawn every day, making me quite grumpy through lack of sleep.

But rather luckily for me, today they didn't appear until lunchtime... very lucky, as today is a writing day and I'm supposed to be productive and intellectually incisive! (Yes, maybe that'll happen when I've logged out of Blogger!)

I don't know why I like them really, apart from them being attractive and cheeky looking. I suppose they seem quite perky and curious about what's going on around them. If birds were people, I think crows would be quite interesting to spend an evening in the pub with, as I'd expect them to know their own minds and have interesting ideas about things.... not that one should attribute human characteristics to birds and animals, of course, there's a word for that, isn't there... no, not 'deluded'... Robin knows.

They often seem to be portrayed as harbingers of death and doom... there's a strange illustration from a Victorian children's book in John Morley's 'Death, Heaven and the Victorians' showing a bird from the crow family with a coffin on its back, covered in a funerary pall. Not very Tellytubbies or Bob The Builder, but we've got a very different attitude to death and children to the Victorians.

So here's an illustration of a crow, not as deathly, but as an intelligent creature, from Aesop's Fables. It was thirsty but couldn't get to the water in the jug, so rather cleverly, dropped pebbles into the jug, one by one, till it forced the water level up high enough for it to drink. The moral being: use your wits! As opposed to looking out of the window at crows, when there's lots of writing to be done....sigh...

Illustration is by Thomas Bewick, 1818, from Bestiaria Latina, a site with lots of illustrated versions of Aesop's Fables. I remembered it from Mathias Klang's blog months ago, when I was already getting sucked into the frighteningly time-consuming and addictive habit of blogging.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Radiation-proof Fishnet

There's some fascinating stuff (images and text) over on the Paleo-Future blog, about visions of the future from different decades in the past, visions that never quite happened in real life.

It's not just the strangeness (or ordinariness) of how people predicted the future would be, which has always fascinated me from watching old science fiction films. I suppose it's partly thinking about why they came up with those ideas, and how the ideas might have related to the time they emerged from. It's also interesting to think about why some things didn't work out, even if they were pure fiction and weren't serious ideas intended to go into production.... or why some examples that did happen actually made it into reality and general use. I guess product design and fashion 'flops', items that were produced and hyped-up, but subsequently ended up a total disaster with the public is linked into this too...

I liked the fashion-related posts, though the illustrations aren't as nicely luridly coloured as some of the other subjects! This image is from a post on designer's fashionable visions for Miss AD 2000, from the Chicago Tribune, 1952. I like the idea by the designer, Jacques Heim, of a glamorous fishnet evening dress which would protect the wearer from atomic radiation.

The odd thing is that today, radiation-proof fishnet is far less fantastical than the Protect and Survive public information films from the British government, which were intended to be taken seriously to avoid the effects of a nuclear bomb... paint your windows white, hide in a ditch from that mushroom cloud, brush the atomic fallout off your clothes and you'll be fine. On the other hand, that fashion designer nearly got his vision of the future spot-on. Radiation-proof fabrics have actually been developed now, 50 years on, though probably not fishnet -it's a bit holey- and maybe just for the military, not for evening gowns. Though you never know!

Great blog - I found it via BoingBoing a week or so ago, and I keep going back for another look. I even ended up ordering a book (allegedly) with bits of jewellery in, so hope that's good when it arrives... not that I need more distractions at this point in time!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Demise of the KISS Kasket

The specially customised casket (or coffin, to us Brits) which the heavy rock band Kiss launched for fans in 2001 went off the market last year. I thought the whole idea was odd after reading an advert for pre-need funeral plans in a TV guide earlier.

The original casket was the typical American style funeral product, but fully decorated with a laminated image of the band members in their usual stage make-up, the Kiss logo and a photo of the crowd at a concert. It was launched by Gene Simmons as an addition to the usual band merchandise, doubling up as a beer cooler during the fan's lifetime, before needed for burial, and retailing for £2,850 ($4,000).

Maybe it seemed a 'cool' (not in the refrigerated sense!!) sort of fan merchandise product, for a band known for their over-the-top stage costumes and theatrical live performances, frequently featuring pyrotechnics, fire-breathing and blood-spitting.

As a business venture, it initially seems to be an ill-informed novelty. Selling coffins to the living is not generally aimed at the young, who (one would hope) have a decent life span ahead of them. It usually falls within the category of pre-need funeral plans, usually targeted at the 50 to 80 age group. The idea is to pay in advance for your own funeral costs while you're alive, including a coffin, to alleviate the perceived financial worry for your family at not being able to afford funeral costs when you finally die. It's a bit like the burial societies during the Victorian period, intended to help working class people avoid the stigma of a pauper funeral, and keep up with the expected funerary etiquette, by paying up in advance. Perhaps it's more popular today in the US as part of the funeral industry, but not terribly successful here, as far as I know.

Even though the Kiss casket was marketed as fan merchandise and given a 'useful' second function by doubling up as a rather large refrigerator, surely it can't have been expected to sell many? It's still trying to get someone young( old are Kiss fans these days??) to plan for their own death. The wrong demographics, I would think... unless you think it would make a very nice ornament or piece of furniture to enhance your home! As it's no longer available from the Kiss website, does that mean that even to the most debauched sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roller, a burial casket is going just a little bit too far?

Still, it made the news and fitted in with the Kiss image, so even a novelty product achieves something, even if it's just a little more notoriety...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Same interests, different decade

It's quite odd how things you like when you're really young seem to stay with you all through your life. I was thinking about the Enid Blyton books that I mentioned in yesterday's updated post (when I probably also contravened some traditional blogging way of doing things in the process, but ho hum, whose blog is it anyway...)

I must have read everything she wrote, as there wasn't a lot of choice in the Lusaka public library for children and it was a very long time ago. I liked the Mystery books best, because it sounded really exciting to go snooping around and solving mysteries like amateur detectives. My mum found an old notebook of mine from then, with real life 'mysteries' in it I was trying to solve, like the Mystery of the Disappearing Pets (probably eaten for someone's dinner, not very mysterious really). Or the Mystery of the Girl - what the hell was that?? Or the burglary, when I spent ages looking for 'clues' the next day, and drawing the broken window and footprints nearby! I'm sure that would make a real detective cringe, but I was only about 6.

I'm still interested in crime and detective stuff, so it's quite fascinating, in a way, that things you become interested in when you're really young stay with you through your life, even though no-one else in your family has prodded you in that direction by doing the same thing.

There's a really old photo of me feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square a really, really long time ago, wearing a little red tartan plastic macintosh... (cynics might say I needed a mac to keep the bird crap off!) So did that experience develop into a strange lifelong fondness for tartan and gingham fabric, and birds?? Why do we like the same odd things all our lives, even when no-one else around us does? It can't be parental influence or peers at school, as none of mine ever liked detective stories, tartan or gingham, or birds for that matter... Can't be genetic either, can it? A tartan-bird-detective gene, there's a thought! I guess someone's done research on it somewhere or other... Psychology's never been my 'thing', but I'd be interested to know.

That Enid Blyton site is great, images of all the covers and some illustrations.... ooh The Magic Faraway Tree too!! I got all nostalgic when I saw it! Will try to write less personal stuff next time though, as it's probably not very interesting to anyone else, but one can indulge occasionally, wouldn't you agree?

Update 6.5.07

I was reminded last night that it's not very fashionable to admit to liking Enid Blyton these days, as some people consider her a weeny bit politically incorrect. I don't think she spawned a generation of monsters somehow, was a product of her time, as writers are, and maybe children just take what they want from books anyway- in my case, exploring the adventures and fantastic worlds girls (as well as boys) could have through reading. I wouldn't say I had acquired any horrendous ideas from her work, and it certainly got me into reading from a very young age... can you say the same for the current generation of computer games players?
And anyway, going along with the currently fashionable and hip view is very overrated sometimes.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Multi-sensory blog

If you're fed up with reading blogs while sitting at your computer, Robin Whitmore's gallery installation of his Dream Diary blog provides a far more 3D, multi-sensory experience.

The audience sits on a specially constructed settee and looks up the stairs in the gallery, to watch the projected images of the dreams (left). A voice narrates each picture, the sound relayed through concealed speakers built into the upholstered settee, which doubles as a sound booth.

Sequences of fourteen dreams are changed every fortnight. An archive of the year's dreams is printed out in small handmade books - one book for each month. The dream diary can also be viewed simultaneously on the internet, as text and image.

Interesting to see how an experiment at interactivity using Blogger has progressed... it was started to record drawings of nightly dreams on a blog instead of in a sketchbook, but has expanded into a far more multi-sensory and interactive form of blog than was initially expected. Instead of reading the text and viewing the images on a small computer screen, the choice of seeing them projected in a large format in a gallery, accompanied by an audible narrative, provides an opportunity to re-interpret the images and text by seeing them in a different spatial context. Handling the images in book form provides yet another way of viewing the dreams.

The next part of the project will be to explore new levels of interactivity, triggered by the gallery installation. A series of workshops planned for the summer will invite the public to describe their own dreams, to have them interpreted visually by the artist. If you're the sort of person who actually remembers their dreams, it could be an interesting thing to do... details will be on the blog notes site soon. I wrote about it a while back too, at the beginning of the project.

I got the Whitmore treatment a few years ago, which was a curious experiment for me, as the resulting drawing was different to my memory and made me think about it differently. The public was invited to contribute a 'shameful' experience, which was then drawn and projected up on a screen in a club. Actually, mine wasn't that shameful... just a strange encounter with a man in a beige raincoat during the morning rush hour on the tube, pretending to be a market researcher for Marks & Spencer's hosiery department. I did think 'sad b*stard' at the time, but in retrospect, a clever ruse on his part and it certainly made the journey to work more memorable.

But that's nothing to do with the dreams project, so don't let it put you off having your dreams drawn!