Monday, February 18, 2008

Pigging technology.

I swear technical things all go wrong in phases, or maybe I just notice it more when they break down en masse.

1. Intermittent broadband connection at home.
2. I've accessed my email for approximately ONE WHOLE MINUTE since Friday before I got chucked out again earlier.
3. My Freeview box is completely dead.
4. The rubbery buttons on the TV remote control have gone all soft since I left it by the radiator, so instead of letting me tune in terrestrial channels, I got black fingers as the buttons disintegrated and then it stopped working. So I've got blurry ITV and Channel 5 and that's it. Only blurry CSI and The Bill to look forward to for light relief from marking.... sigh. Now I'm superstitiously nervous of touching the DVD player in case that blows up too.

Maybe it's a sign that I should be marking dissertations solidly for a while, but it's put me in a really bad mood.

Tuesday: Feeling slightly smug, though it's not a very nice attribute really, is it! I am gratified to find the email problem is a university network one and not me or my kit, so I don't have to do anything to fix it and I was the first one to report it. I was vaguely suspicious when the new techie temp said as no-one else had rung in the problem to the helpdesk, it couldn't exist. Also, he seemed to think as he could log in to a pc within the uni network, it meant there couldn't be a problem for anyone accessing it from home. I was too polite to pursue that, and anyway, I'm not very technical these days. The only thing worse than a know-it-all user is a rude one, and I try not to be either. Being smug from a distance is ok occasionally though! Now, I'd better get on with that marking, I suppose...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A nosey question

Probably absolutely none of my business, but as I'm feeling curious (AKA nosey) I will ask anyway. I glance at my blog statistics occasionally and have been wondering why so many people end up here so frequently from Brazil through searching for DDD8 in Google? Just curious, as it was an academic conference held in Sept '07 so I can't imagine it being still newsworthy now, either in personal blogs or elsewhere. Unless there is something specific going on in Brazil...? I mentioned the conference in a post last year, even though I knew I wasn't going, as one of my PhD supervisors was one of the organisers and I was probably feeling informative at the time. It would be interesting to hear from others doing research or work in that area, so if anyone's passing through again and if you feel like leaving a comment, it would be great to hear from you.

What mothers want (allegedly)

There's an article in Music Week about the unique sales opportunity that Mother's Day presents for the music industry, providing one of its "biggest sales spikes" outside Christmas as people go on a spending spree to spoil their mothers. I noticed the increased marketing for this occasion last year, as TV adverts started being screened for CDs with slightly mawkish titles, of obscure artists I'd never heard of, pitched at viewers as the perfect gift for Mother's Day. I remember it because it seemed that any old dross could be designated as 'appropriate for Mum' if it had a suitably sentimental theme, and I felt vaguely sorry for any mothers of more discerning taste who received one of those CDs.

A "Mother's Day-type product" seems to be based on curious assumptions about the musical taste of mothers, as if you can lump all mothers into one category. A deluxe edition of Simply Red's best selling album is to be re-issued and "aimed firmly at the Mother's Day market". Another company, Pinnacle, will be promoting Katie Melua throughout this period, as “Mother’s Day always presents good sales for Katie Melua albums." Yet another company is producing a collection called 'Just for You' (in case anyone is unable to write this in a card...?), with various assorted artists in the Melua vein. Other industry-driven suggestions are music by female singers or collections of 'oldies', including Billy Fury.

I don't quite understand the assumptions behind these proposed marketing campaigns, although I'm quite sure they're all based on solid statistics. If I gave my mother a Simply Red deluxe CD, she'd think I'd completely lost the plot. A musician friend of mine, who is also a mother, once described Katie Melua's output as 'male wank music', so I'm guessing she wouldn't be too pleased if her kids gave her that on Mother's Day. Should mums have a particular fondness for female singers, just because they're women? Did all women automatically like Margaret Thatcher, just because she was a woman? Did they hell.

The 'oldies' thing is slightly puzzling, as it seems to be based on several assumptions, one being that mums are a certain age or old enough to be nostalgic about music they grew up with, presumably during the 50's and 60's, since popular hits from those decades are usually featured on 'oldies' compilations. That can't be the case in reality, as many are a lot younger and probably weren't even born in those decades. The other assumption seems to be that everyone automatically likes 'oldies', and if you didn't when you were younger, there may be a point when you come of age and change your musical tastes to include these artists. Or maybe it's just a 'safe choice' for a gift that isn't likely to offend anyone, as the music is familiar now, distanced by time and no longer likely to shock or surprise, even if it did once when it was new.

I'd be interested to know if people's tastes do change as they get older, or if they continue to like whatever music they listened to when they were young. My grandmother used to be quite fond of wearing dresses made of pastel-coloured crimplene, a man-made, synthetic, slightly spongy fabric, as it was easy to look after (drip dry, no ironing needed). I wondered whether my mum would ditch her usual style of dress and switch to crimplene when she reached a certain age, but she never did. It proved to me at the time that certain tastes at specific stages of life aren't necessarily innate or inevitable. Maybe it's the same for music too, and these marketing campaigns for Mother's Day products are more for people who don't take the time to actually think about the tastes of whoever they are buying for. I think my own mother would really prefer a Led Zeppelin DVD, and I'll be keeping the Billy Fury CDs for myself. That doesn't fit the marketing demographics in the article, but at least I'll have thought about it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

When people think art is rubbish

I don't mean that in a critical sense, when an artist's work might be considered conceptually weak or badly executed. I don't mean it in a British tabloid headlines manner either, in the way Tracy Emin's bed or Damien Hirst's pickled animals might have been regarded as pretentious crap or 'just not art'.

I mean that ghastly real-life incident when a piece of artwork in a gallery really is mistaken for a pile of old rubbish, and the cleaners are instructed to get rid of it quickly, before the guests arrive for the private view.

Well, thank goodness for a none too speedy disposal of the rubbish into the incinerator, and the trusty Hoover... at least that gave a chance to empty out the vacuum cleaner contents and retrieve the artwork from amongst the 'real' rubbish. Then it was quickly replaced in the gallery before any lasting damage was done and no-one was any the wiser. A helpful new addition to the piece since then was a carefully delineated rectangle of white tape around the work, so everyone knows it's art and not rubbish this time. It's all a question of interpretation, isn't it!!

I'm back at work now and the 'rubbish' tale doing the rounds was the highlight of the day. And thank you for all your nice comments, I'm feeling much better at last, which will hopefully continue until I'm back to normal again. I do wish I'd washed my coffee stuff up before I was ill though, as it's sprouted a healthy greenish-grey mould culture since I've been off, but that's life. I liked that mug too.....