Friday, August 31, 2007

Blogging, moaning (and why not!)

Sometimes (like today) I still don't feel like I've got the hang of this blogging malarkey, even though I've been doing it since last autumn. Sometimes I wonder why I'm doing it, or wish I had a proper, neatly defined subject 'theme' for it... or 'raison d'etre' (that's pronounced with a South London accent, I'm afraid, as I always hated 'doing' a French accent at school).

Out of my real-life blogging friends, Robin's blog is a lovely collection of drawings and is part of an art gallery project and installation, Helen's is mostly about her music, Matthias writes about cyber law and stuff related to his job, and some of the Librarians at work have occasional whinges, and do blogs about gardening and strange images (anonymously, though I know who they are!).

Usually it's ok and I just write about what I want, so it's probably a bit eclectic. Then sometimes I think that it's not very coherent, zipping from one topic to another, but then again, I don't want separate blogs like the Random Reality ambulance man either. Though he does probably have a zillion readers...

And then there's the death stuff of course, as obviously I think about it and notice stuff going on in the news etc, as I can't do a PhD on mourning jewellery without thinking about the cultural context and there's usually lots to choose from to write about. Presumably I don't write anything that suggests I'm a latent psycho-nutcase from Creepsville (as I'm not) but then sometimes I wonder if it seems a bit weird to write about it in my blog, as it doesn't really 'go' with the other things I write about. My sociology of death supervisor from Bath University said he wished his other students would do a blog like mine, so I guess it's ok really...

And then sometimes I write things and afterwards think, hang on, too much personal information here, so I go back and change posts or delete bits. I've even deleted my own comments in reply to other people, where I thought I'd said too much. Whatever 'too much' is... It all sounds a bit stupid really... maybe I should have done an anonymous blog, then it wouldn't have mattered, but it's too late now, as it's all stuck in archive caches on the internet. The new academic year starts soon, and I guess I'm already thinking about that... none of the other tutors do blogs, as far as I know.

Actually, I don't even know why I'm moaning about all this. What I really want to moan about is my flipping PhD, as it's really overwhelming me at the moment. The proverbial millstone. The mail server's been down since yesterday, I'm still waiting for several people to get back to me by email, I'm surrounded by paper and I'm really sick of it today. Maybe I'll take some library books back to Chelsea, and walk along the river and I'll feel better. Yep, a good plan, if I say so myself, or the rest of the day will be a write-off, if I'm in this mood.

Grim and moany today (rockabilly didn't work its magic this time)

Happy and perky tomorrow (probably...)

Apologies for the tone of this post, but it's a PhD thing, you know. Apparently. I never believed it when other people told me it could be hideous at times, but it's true. It's a wonder anyone ever finishes the things at this rate.

Hhmmm, actually I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it (after all that whingeing) but this has got the moaning-mood completely out of my system. They're almost magical, these blogs, aren't they. And not a single real person's ears had to listen - sighs of relief all round, no doubt.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I like this image. It's quite fuzzy and low-resolution, but it looks like a sort of quasi-religious pilgrimage, with people carrying candles and gifts, though you're not sure who the people are, or what they're lining up for in the gloomy half-light.

It's fans queuing at Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, on the 30th anniversary of his death. The image is a screenshot from the live webcam set up at Graceland, that's set up to refresh its image every 60 seconds. It's just a fleeting view of the front lawn of the Graceland Mansion at one moment in time, on Thursday 16th July 2007, at 6.05 am, although I was looking at midday on the internet in sunny (!!) London. Maybe I'll think of something fascinatingly incisive to say about this, when I've thought about it a bit more - that would be nice! But not today though, as my brain's in jewellery mode (fortunately).

Several decades on, the level of devotion Elvis still inspires in people seems quite amazing on one level, though with that voice and those looks, maybe not!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Respectably Studious

I'm not sure what the appeal of using different libraries is, but it's definitely there for me! I love going to other libraries and archives! Maybe it's the promise of all those unfamiliar books... lots of new topics just waiting to be trawled through, making fresh ideas pop into your head and prod the research forwards a tiny bit more. Lovely!!!

I've been going to the library at the LSE (London School of Economics) recently, I needed different material to the usual fashion, art and design stuff. It's a nice contrast to ours.... nothing odd going on in the background, like someone filming a giant black and white cardboard model of a cat's head between the bookshelves.

No little luxuries to indulge the visiting researcher either, as in the Goldsmiths jewellery library in the City. Like... someone else fetching your books, doing your photocopying, offering you tea in proper cups and saucers AND other interested listeners at the only table in the room making helpful suggestions - good ones, too!

Nope, it's just loads of social science books, waiting to be browsed through. (I'm probably making myself sound really exciting here, aren't I!! Aah well, there you go!!!)

I like seeing the different types of people at other libraries too. LSE students aren't like art students, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite different styles of clothing. But it's got a nice, respectably studious atmosphere. Everyone there looks very preoccupied and purposeful. It reminded me that I'm not the only person in the country who's not 'away in August', and maybe just a few other people are slogging away during the summer too, trying to get something done instead of having a holiday. It's a funny old business, this academic research thing, but I can't imagine wanting to do anything else!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Zapped by a Pink Seal!

TUPC's comment about the solar bikini reminded me of this weird invention I'd seen recently. It deserves a small mention on the blog, as it's nearly jewellery (sort of accessories for bags, though maybe a bit anti-social).

It's one of those dangly objects you attach to a bag or mobile phone, shaped like a 'cute' pink seal, but with a special hidden property as a 'stun gun' (so it says).

It's battery powered and is designed to give a minor electric shock when applied to the body. Apparently its voltage isn't strong enough to use it as a self-defence weapon, so you should probably avoid any 'have-a-go-hero' antics with this one.

The advertising blurb on the website says: "Who imagines this lovely seal is a stun gun? It gives an electric shock to a naughty guy trying to touch you. Ouch!"

It might not be powerful enough to deter anyone trying to steal your bag, but the blurb does warn against using it on anyone with heart disease, or applying it to a 'delicate part of the body'.

It's sold as a 'funny toy', but it depends on your sense of humour, I guess. Though I quite like the idea that it's the start of Revenge of the Seals, getting their own back on humans and making up for all the real-life baby ones that get clubbed to death by people.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saturday procrastination

Statistics for blogs are curious sometimes... the things people type into google (or other search engines) to end up on your blog. It seems to go in patterns for mine, I've got lots looking for stuff on peanut butter diamonds at the moment, but all (apparently) from America. It's an easier phrase to remember than 'research into high pressure physics and materials in extreme conditions', I suppose, if you're not a scientist. It made me wonder why the sudden interest... has there been something on the news in that country recently, that got people logging onto their computers to find out more?

There was an Osmonds spate a while back, so I wondered whether they'd been in the media then. Maybe the searchers didn't really want a picture of the fan club's
official battery-powered Osmonds toothbrush, but there you go, that's part of the fascination of blogs. One person's trivia can be interesting to at least one other person in the whole wide world. We are not alone in our obscure ramblings.

I think there will be Elvis searches next week, as it's the anniversary of his death. I've got a nice Elvis bracelet actually, now I come to think of it... I got it from The Girl Can't Help It, a stall in Alfie's Antiques Market, and it's not any old souvenir tat either - oh no. 'Imported direct from Graceland,' I was told. It's got tiny photos embedded in it that look a bit luminous, my favourites being the pink cadillac and 'Hollywood Elvis', as his hair looks nice in that pic. People at work liked it, so it has the Cultural Studies Fashion seal of approval, strangely enough!

Ooh, can I possibly be putting off getting down to some serious writing, procrastinating by woffling on about blog statistics? Surely not! Oh well, back to PhD chapter number 7 again.... hhmm, I think I've said that before...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Solar Bikini

A bikini incorporating thin, flexible solar film can produce enough solar energy to power an iPod, or other small gadgets.

Designed by Andrew Schneider, the custom-made bikini is retrofitted with 1” x 4” photovoltaic film strips sewn together in series with conductive thread. The cells terminate in a 5 volt regulator into a USB connection.

There's a similar idea produced by Triumph, the lingerie manufacturer, over on a blog about wearable technology. I thought it was a bit ugly really, just like a normal one-piece swimsuit with solar panels stuck on the front, whereas Schneider's bikini looks a bit more Barbarella. If you're going to have environmentally friendly clothing, the aesthetics are still relevant.

The solar bikini was shown at Unravel, an exhibition of fashion at Siggraph 2007, which focusses on computer graphics and interactive technology. It featured a range of innovative and experimental works in 'computational and conceptual couture', socially conscious fashion, science inspired form, and new technology in textiles. As a journalist commented, the aim was to show that the merging of textiles and technology can be elegant and need not resemble a robot's cast offs.

Schneider is working on a male version of the bikini with a larger surface area, (the iDrink) which will allegedly be able to produce enough voltage to chill a single beer in a special custom cooler. He's taking orders already!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Thai police punished with Hello Kitty armbands

Police wearing bright pink armbands, adorned with a Hello Kitty motif and a couple of hearts, on top of their usual uniform?? I thought this was too weird to be true, but apparently not.

Police in Thai capital Bangkok are to be punished for breaking police rules by being forced to wear one of these armbands for several days.

Police officers caught littering, parking in a prohibited area, or arriving late — amongst other misdemeanors — will also be forced to stay in the division office with the deputy chief all day, said Police Col. Pongpat Chayaphan.

"Simple warnings no longer work. This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offence, no matter how minor," said Pongpat, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.

"Hello Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It's not something macho police officers want covering their biceps," Pongpat said.

What is Hello Kitty, in case you've never come across it?

The cartoon character Hello Kitty was first introduced by Japanese company Sanrio in 1974. The cute round-faced cat has become an Asia-wide marketing phenomenon, with Hello Kitty products particularly popular with children and young women. The cat can be found adorning products such as diamond-studded jewellery, Fender guitars and digital cameras to lunch boxes, T-shirts and stationery. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Mariah Carey have been spotted with Hello Kitty gear. Enough said.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New 24-hour TV Channel for Death and Dying

An around-the-clock television channel devoted to ageing, death and dying will be launched in Germany this autumn.

Documentaries about cemeteries and changing funeral cultures will be shown alongside advice on how to go about finding suitable nursing or palliative care. Other shows will aim to provide viewers with information about undertakers, insurance schemes, meals-on-wheels, stair lifts, bathroom hoists and other medical supplies.

The channel, which pairs 'TV veteran' Wolf Tilmann Schneider, the channel’s founder, with the National Association of Funeral Homes in Germany, seeks to take advantage of the countries changing demographics. In 2006, Germany saw almost 150,000 more deaths than births, a continuation of a trend that has seen the country’s population age dramatically in recent decades.

Kerstin Gernig, spokeswoman for the National Association of Funeral Homes, says there has also been a recent shift in the way people approach death and burial. More people are taking advantage of anonymous burials, for example. Forest cemeteries are likewise becoming more popular, as are Internet graveyards. And the church no longer plays such a large role in the death industry."We want to take a look at the changing nature of mourning and death in the Internet, pictures and movies."

The channel also plans to provide families with an outlet for their mourning by offering 30 second slots as televised obituaries. For an €2,400 fee, the spot will be aired 10 times on the death channel and will also be provided as a video on the company’s website and those of the funeral homes.

As Schneider says, the list of topics for the channel to cover is endless.

(Source: Spiegel Online
, via CDAS at Bath University)