Saturday, December 29, 2007

People's obsessions

I do love the way the internet allows people to indulge their personal passions and obsessions, for all to see. I'm not talking about anything sleazy here, but the way people's personal interests or hobbies that may have been hidden away before are now given full rein and public exposure. I've been struck recently by how much time and loving care must be lavished by people on creating material for their own pleasure, for YouTube videos, websites or blogs. I probably ought to find some examples, but can't think of any at present...

I was poking about yesterday on YouTube on a personal musical nostalgia trip of bands I'd seen or wished I'd seen, or any old stuff really. Major procrastination on my part probably... One user had loads of David Cassidy videos, clips from the Partridge Family TV show, as well as her own slideshows with musical accompaniment. I was thinking that a longstanding fan like her must have previously had collections of photos or memorabilia hidden away in boxes, magazines or scrapbooks, plus a collection of albums, on vinyl or CD, though nobody would know she had it. Now it's all reusable in a different form and made accessible to many more interested people. Even collections of 3D objects can be used for something.

I don't know why, but I find the idea of people feverishly slogging away at their computers on their pet projects quite endearing. I like the way so much effort must have been spent creating sites and videos for a presumably quite specialist audience- it must take ages to transfer old VHS clips to a YouTube-friendly format, but I'm glad people do, as it's nice to be able to share old footage with other enthusiasts, and they probably have a better knowledge and attention to detail than many 'official' sites. 'Fan-dom' seems quite obsessive sometimes, though probably harmless in the wider scheme of things.

I suppose it's stating the obvious really, but the growth of the internet and all its related digital bits must have taken private collections and interests to another level that wouldn't have existed before the technology and 'user generated content' became easily mastered. It lets one indulge one's inner anorak tendencies, as you're no longer alone in your obscure passion. I half wish I had an obsession that would drive me to create some new web-based thing, but I don't. I like other people's strangely diverse enthusiasms though.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Sound of Fury

I've become really fascinated by Billy Fury recently, since I watched a DVD about his life and music, 'His Wondrous Story'. I didn't know anything about him before that, just that he was an English rock 'n' roll singer who started in the 1950s, though I realise I knew some of his songs already when I heard them. I've also remembered I've got a few photos of him in old film and pop star annuals, ones I bought decades ago for their lurid coloured photography, styling and fashion.

I wish there had been more original footage of him on the DVD, particularly live performances. Interviewees said how good he was live and how he got banned in Ireland until he cleaned up his stage act, which is really annoying as it leaves you wondering what he was actually like, but you'll never know, as it's all in the past. My mum never went to see him, so I can't ask her. The narrative voiceover on the DVD was by Dave Vanian, singer with The Damned (seminal British punk band). That might sound odd to the uninitiated, but I think you can hear Billy Fury's musical influence on some of Vanian's non-Damned 'Phantom Chords' album. Apparently Morrissey is also a fan (which might be interesting if you like him or The Smiths, though I don't particularly.)

I really love Billy Fury's voice and the songs he wrote himself, which is an unusual thing for a 'teen idol' of the late 1950s/early '60s to have done. I like the sound of him as a person too, coping with serious health problems from an early age that led to his premature death at 42, being really shy but amazingly good looking and talented, caring for injured wildlife and being anti-bloodsports, amongst other qualities. I suppose some singers and musicians just appeal to you, regardless of when they lived or died.

Here's someone's video of him and one of his biggest hits, Halfway to Paradise. Though actually I do prefer the first album of his, The Sound of Fury, which he wrote all the songs for, but there weren't any of them on YouTube. I don't suppose it's to the taste of many of you regular readers of this blog, but for me, there's no going back now!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Things on sticks

Some people seem to take a fair amount of trouble to attach things to sticks and carry them around when they're out and about. I've just seen a grimy looking tramp striding purposefully past Tesco's with a doll's head on a stick held out in front of him at arms length, like a talisman, or a trophy. The doll's head coordinated nicely with his own appearance, as both had long matted hair and grubby faces, but it seemed a strange possession for someone who lives rough. It gave him the appearance of a slightly deranged voodoo-satanic plastic doll worshipper.

I've seen another man on the bus a few times who looks like a witchdoctor, swathed in African fabrics and accessorised with bits of animal fur. He carries a long stick that he periodically taps on the floor of the bus, annoying the driver. He mutters to himself continuously, which is slightly unnerving, apart from a strange touch of domesticity in the form of a new wooden spoon tied to the end of the stick. That changes the effect slightly. My brother had his fortune told by a witchdoctor years ago when we lived abroad, but I think he had animal bones and a spear head attached to his stick, not an English wooden cooking utensil.

I'm sure these objects have got some significance for their owners. I know it's their whole appearance and the muttering as well, but carrying odd things on sticks certainly helps to clear their path on crowded buses and pavements. Everyone gets out of their way fairly rapidly. People scatter. Maybe something to bear in mind during the rush hour...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Almost human again

Things have eased off slightly since my last moany post. I think I'd taken on too much stuff, in retrospect... I succumbed to the flu bug which was going round at work and was off sick for a while. That meant I had to re-jig various teaching things and dreamt about them while I was ill. Feverish hallucinations and an over-attachment to the job are not great for one's recovery really.

Now all the final dissertation tutorials are finished, the essays are marked and the students have gone for the holidays. I've developed an extreme aversion to slithery transparent A4 plastic wallets. It's really difficult to get the essays back in once you've read them and when there's loads of them... a staple in the corner would do the job quite nicely.

We've had the annual staff meeting, listened to tales about different types of concrete (for the new college building) and heard how Sir Norman Foster got the lettering very wrong in the British Museum (wrong typeface and bad letter spacing, though I don't suppose he thought so). We've had the Christmas party, thankfully devoid of novelty flashing antlers and bursts of song. Small mercies.

I had a meeting with my PhD supervisors about the year ahead. The workload is rather daunting from now on, until the end of August. We discussed examiners - I need an extra one, as I'm staff. Every PhD in this country is assessed by a panel of experts in that field, who read the thesis and cross-examine the student verbally in a viva, before they decide whether a doctorate can be awarded or not. Apparently some students enjoy this (!!) as it's a rare opportunity to discuss their work with experts. The enjoyment factor sounds a bit dubious to me at the moment, but I'm glad the people we've selected have already heard about me and like my work. Assuming there are no unforeseen deaths or disasters ahead, the whole thing should be out of the way by this time next year....!!!!!!!!

I'm a bit nervous about what happens after that, as it's horrendously competitive out there and academic qualifications alone don't guarantee marvellous jobs. A colleague who is at the same point in her PhD has been questioning everything in her life as well recently, so I guess it's normal, though definitely not pleasant. An old schoolfriend has just finished hers and said it was an ordeal at the end, so that makes me feel better too... sort of. My mum thinks we must be masochistic weirdos for putting ourselves through it on purpose, and I'm starting to think she has a point.

It was my dad's 70th birthday do yesterday, which was surprisingly nice (I'm afraid I hadn't been looking forward to it). But it felt like the first time I'd done something totally unrelated to work for ages, it gets the other stuff into perspective, so I'm having a blissful pottering-about day today and intend to have a good rest for now, mixed up with doing non-work things and some writing. I think I'll sort my blog out too... a change of look would be good, but I'm not sure what I want yet. I've been watching quite few old Doctor Who episodes, hence the Family of Blood pic - that was a good one, and scary scarecrows too. I've also been shopping, for new shoes and a selection of cosmetics and bath stuff I'd run out of - there doesn't seem any point in working if you can't squander a bit of money on yourself occasionally. Now I just 'need' a new MAC lipstick and a new lip brush, as my current one is nearly bald (the hairs keep coming out and sticking to my lips) then I think I'll feel almost human again. Phew.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Slipping into anonymity

Hello there. I've been going through an 'oh, I wish I'd started an anonymous blog' phase. It usually happens when I remember that it's on the internet and definitely not a limited conversation between a few selected people, which it often feels like with blogging. I'm fed up with trying to vet what I write, so it's not about actual people who don't know they're being written about, or work stuff that might annoy someone, or my PhD research before it's published (which would be extremely stupid, from a career point of view).

I know you can't really go backwards and slip into anonymity when you've been doing a blog for a year, as some people obviously know who you are, which I don't mind anyway. In an attempt to shrug off my foul mood and cover my tracks slightly, I've changed my profile, rather than deleting the actual blog, which I was sorely tempted to do earlier. I really liked the idea of starting completely afresh, but I resisted it this time.

I think all this was prompted by wondering what I'd be doing in a year's time, and whether whatever I've written on the blog would be appropriate for whatever I might be doing then... or what I want to do. Would I want my departmental manager or future employer reading what I'd written about eyebrows or rat milk or the X Factor??? Who knows. It's that annoying potential conflict between all the different parts of your life that get all mixed up on-line. As it's a bit difficult trying to predict the future and I'm not exactly known for being psychic, I'll keep it like this for now. I don't suppose even the Christmas Cavalcade of Clairvoyants that my mum and Auntie Ig went to see at the weekend would have had an answer either.